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Incinerators 6: FOI reveals the surprising truth about the Javelin Park incinerator contract

News of the long campaign against the proposed Javelin Park incinerator was read by many visitors to this site in 2013 and 2015.

This year, campaigners obtained a copy of the contract, after using freedom of Information rules, and the monitoring officer at Gloucestershire County Council has now been asked to investigate whether the leader and his deputy exaggerated the cost of backing out of a plan to commission a £500m waste incinerator.

A resident of the county was contacted and replied that she had read about the discovery in the Gloucester Citizen, which republished an account from Gloucestershire Live, but neither account may now be found online. A search reveals no mainstream media reference to the subject.

Public Sector Blogs drew on an account by Tim Davies, co-founder of Open Data Services Co-operative, co-director of Practical Participation, affiliate at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society:

“The claim made to council on 18th Feb 2015 that it could cost £60m – £100m to cancel the contract appears to be based on calculations from officers, and/or Ernst and Young which have not been published by the authority (perhaps another EIR or FOIA request will be needed here…). The Tribunal ruling refers in Paragraph 27 to a document from Ernst and Young presented to Cabinet in November 2015. However campaigners reading the unredacted contract cannot find the substantiation for the cancellation costs being so high before the facility is operational. It appears breakage before the plant is in operation could cost substantially less than the break-points once it is up and running – and possibly even lower than the £30m the Council has subsequently committed from reserves to cover shortfalls in the project”.

Community R4C, a community-led project promoting a circular economy in Gloucestershire, which published local media accounts of the recent discovery here, has now gone to the council’s external auditor, Grant Thornton. With the help of the Environmental Law Foundation, a case has been put together which, it believes, shows the Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) contract is not value-for-money. It has also approached the Competition and Markets Authority, claiming that Gloucestershire’s contract breaks competition law.

A contributor to Private Eye magazine reports that environmental law expert Raymond Purdy, a senior fellow at Oxford University, has complained about the way Gloucestershire council leader Mark Hawthorne and deputy Ray Theodoulou presented financial details to a crucial meeting. As Tim Davies noted above, it was claimed that to opt out of the contract already signed with UBB would potentially cost £100m.

ELF elaborates: “The contract, originally signed in 2013 and then renegotiated in 2015, for the £500 million incinerator was awarded to Urbaser Balfour Beatty although details on pricing and information on termination were only made public following an Information Tribunal ruling in March this year (2017). In light of this information, and after seeking assistance from Counsel through ELF member, Duncan Sinclair of 39 Essex Chambers, R4C lodged a complaint with the CMA on 21st March that the Javelin Park contract breaches the Competition Act 1998. R4C believe that the exclusive contract is anti-competitive and prevents technological innovation, imposing a huge financial burden for years to come. They state that:

  • the price paid by GCC for waste disposal for a minimum amount is 10 times the next tranche, thereby creating ‘de facto’ exclusivity and foreclosing the market for waste treatment (including eliminating incentives to recycle/move higher up the waste hierarchy);
  • there are excessive termination costs thereby enforcing the ‘lock-in’; and
  • the 25-year contract prevents newer, cheaper and more efficient/environmentally friendly alternatives developing to the detriment of consumers in terms of not only price but also their interest in the environment (both local and more broadly).

If the complaint is upheld there would be serious consequences for Gloucestershire County Council and the residents they are elected to represent.

 

 

 

 

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Javelin Park 3: request to call in the application for a mass burn facility

javelin park 2 incinerator image

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In September and December many readers viewed PCU reports about incinerators – waste to energy installations in planning-speak – and many more find them each week by searching on the term.

The latest SNJ news about the Javelin Park incinerator from Stroud in Gloucestershire reminds us that Gloucestershire County Council’s planning committee is to decide next month whether or not to award planning permission to Urbaser Balfour Beatty for the mass burn facility, adding:

eric pickles 2 call in javelin park incinerator“The contract for the plant has been drawn up in such a way that if councillors were to refuse permission for the facility, GCC would be liable to pay multinational waste firm Urbaser up to £15 million in compensation, meaning the authority has a direct financial interest in approving the scheme.”

The article asks Gloucestershire County Council to contact the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles to call in the planning application and place it before an independent inspector, who will be less exposed to the political and financial pressures faced by members of the authority’s planning committee. This would restore trust in the process which was diminished when the case officer in charge of the application was replaced after voicing his intention to recommend it for refusal or deferral.

Another article added a link to an online government e-petition and published an impressive list of organisations, local authorities and individuals who, together with the protest group GlosVAIN, have either already written to the communities secretary asking him to ‘call-in’ the incinerator application or have expressed their strong and unequivocal opposition to it:

Local authorities

– Stroud Town Council
– Stroud District Council
– Stonehouse Town Council
– Nailsworth Town Council
– Painswick Parish Council
– Haresfield Parish Council
– Moreton Valence Parish Council
– Standish Parish Council
– Uckington Parish Council
– Bishops Cleeve Parish Council
– Leckhampton Parish Council
– Randwick Parish Council
– Churchdown Parish Council
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Organisations

– Natural England
– The Cotswold Conservation Board
– English Heritage
– The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE)
– Friends of the Earth
– Gloucestershire Vale Against Incineration (GlosVAIN)
– Gloucestershire Against Incineration (GlosAIN)
– Safety in Waste and Rubbish Disposal (SWARD)
– Blooms Garden Centre

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Individuals

– Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood
– Former Stroud MP David Drew
– Jonathon Porritt (Former director of Friends of the Earth and co-founder of Forum for the Future)

 

 

Javelin Park 2: Gloucestershire County Council’s PFI incinerator deal with Urbaser Balfour Beatty: case officer removed & consultants brought in

 

PCU has recorded Gloucestershire County Council’s desire to build a £500 million Urbaser Balfour Beatty Energy from Waste incinerator at Javelin Park in Haresfield. It is reported that 103 incinerator sites were licensed in 2010, that in 2011 DEFRA had 20 more applications from large power companies and that a large number of government advisers are involved in the expensive and remunerative incinerator PFI deals.

Highlighting growing concerns that there will be too many incinerators in the UK by 2015 and that they will severely hamper recycling, Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood tabled Early Day Motion 383, . . . to read on click here.

Opposition to this plan by residents, opposition groups and local authorities has been well documented in the Stroud News & Journal by journalist Chris Warne.

Update: the council removes the case officer from the Javelin Park application and brings in a team of consultants – at taxpayers’ expense

GCG says that this – done without informing a lead member of its planning committee – is perfectly normal practice, but the SNJ’s editorial comment is: “There is a school of management that keeps on asking the same question until the right answer appears”.

Geoff Wheeler, the leader of Stroud District Council, has now instructed officers to write to Eric Pickles at the Department for Communities and Local Government, asking him to ‘call in’ the plans as he did with the Kings Lynn incinerator application in August.

GCG’s Lib-Dems, supported by the Labour Group, have separately called in the bid for extra scrutiny but the County Council hopes to determine the application in the New Year.

SouthWest Business reported last Friday that planning experts at Stroud District Council have warned that the £500million scheme to build a waste-to-energy plant at Javelin Park, supported by Gloucestershire County Council and incinerator firm Urbaser Balfour Beatty, could be thrown out by a Government inspector because of the impact it could have on the environment.

Irregularities in procedure

Stroud’s Councillor Marjoram points out irregularities in procedure: the council selected a contractor for the construction before planning permission had been granted, signing a contract with a penalty clause which will charge them £15 million if they renege on the agreement or don’t get planning permission.

Apply the precautionary principle

Ian Richens, spokesman for the campaigning group GlosVAIN, grimly reminds all that in the 1970s asbestos was similarly presented as posing no danger to health and adds:

“Let us not make the same mistake again”.#

 

NOTE:

United Kingdom Without Incineration Network

UKWIN has nearly 100 groups campaigning for sustainable waste management and against waste incineration. They say that the incineration of household waste:

  • depresses recycling and wastes resources,
  • releases greenhouse gases, and is
  • often forced through against strong public opposition.
  • create toxic emissions and hazardous ash, and therefore pose significant health risks.

Electoral reaction: in Kings Lynn, Labour’s Alex Kempe won a county council seat from the Conservatives.  Their majority of 272 at the last election was transformed into a 400 majority for Labour.  Ms Kemp said that the issue of the proposed incinerator had a major bearing on the outcome. The County Council’s decision to award a contract for the construction of an incinerator has been ‘called in’ – there will be a full public inquiry in January 2013.

 

 

Incinerators – the rhetoric is of localism, the practice is dictatorial

The applause for a member of this week’s Question Time audience who said the burning of waste was not wanted stopped the programme for quite a while – the longest rally this viewer has seen on Question Time.

 

 

Powerful lobbying for ‘waste to energy’ projects led to the licensing of 103 incinerator sites in 2010 . . . Incinerators are being imposed on communities by government, with DEFRA often expressing strong support, in conflict with the report by the Commons Environmental Audit Committee in 2009-2010 which pointed out that the costs and health impact of PM 2.5 is estimated to cost up to £20.2bn. These companies say that emissions are low but the should read about one of many examples of flawed monitoring which mean that emissions can rise above acceptable levels. 

A few examples of threatened communities 

In Cornwall

In March this year the Government won a Court of Appeal challenge against a ruling which quashed its decision to grant planning permission for a £117 million waste incinerator project in Cornwall. Last year the Secretary of State granted permission. The company says the incinerator will generate enough electricity to supply 21,000 homes by burning 240,000 tons of non-recyclable household waste a year. Lawyers for SITA have said that if the project was halted, or delayed, the total cost to council taxpayers from landfill tax and other costs would rise to well in excess of £200 million. 

In Gloucestershire

Gloucestershire County Council’s scrutiny committee blocked the ‘call-in’ of a decision to award a contract to Urbaser Balfour Beatty. Cllr Stan Waddington said DEFRA had insisted Gloucestershire still needed to cut its landfill rates. There are charges that information about “gate fees”, the amount companies will be charged to burn their waste, was kept from opposition councillors. 

In Worcestershire

A delay in granting planning permission to EnviRecover to build an incinerator will “hit rate payers in Herefordshire and Worcestershire in the pocket” to the tune of £16 million in landfill tax charges, according to Mercia Waste Management. The company, which is contracted to manage public waste for both counties, wants to build a £120 million facility at the Hartlebury Trading Estate in Worcestershire. 

And two in Norfolk

Proposals for an incinerator in King’s Lynn gather pace and there are plans for Cory Wheelabrator to build another, smaller, plant at a site in Snetterton.

And these impositions come from a government which said on its official website, that through its Localism Bill and other measures, it “trusts people to take charge of their lives and will push power downwards and outwards to the lowest possible level, including individuals, neighbourhoods, professionals and communities as well as local councils and other local institutions.”